Not unlike the famous line, “I see dead people,” from the movie, The Sixth Sense—I see shadow people.
Well, maybe they’re not people, but they’re definitely shadows. And I do see them. More often than I
care to admit. Just a small glimpse, from the corner of my eye. Near the floor. Yet when I look full on, nothing is there.
Of course, then there is the larger one. The one that is not near the floor. The one that’s about
four feet tall. The white shadow which darts through the doorway of the spare bedroom next to my own
on occasion when I walk down the hallway at night. Quick enough to be little more than a flash, yet
obvious enough to cause me to jump back with a start and set my heart to race. Disturbing enough to
cause me to now tread the hallway uneasily.
What is it that my dog senses in the night when she lays at the foot of my bed and stares at the
bedroom door with a soft growl guttering from deep within her throat?
I grew up in a haunted house. I am no stranger to weird phenomena. Footsteps crossing the floor
in the night. The door which would sporadically open all on its own. The distinct sound of a metal
bucket hitting a wooden floor in the bedroom that had originally been the front porch. Why a bucket?
What significance does that hold within the captured space of that particular room? The house is gone
now, torn down and erased. But I wonder—if one were to listen to the empty lot long enough, would they still hear a falling bucket?
These are a few examples of the simple type of odd occurrences shared by mankind throughout
the ages which give birth to legions of ghost stories.
The shadows I see near the floor in my living room might logically be explained away as a type
of ocular flashing, and I might worry about the health of my eyes if I was seeing these things everywhere.
But I only see them in my own home and my eyes are fine—I just had them checked. The taller, white
shadow in the hallway? Perhaps nothing more than a reflection. Yet a reflection of what, I have no answer.
For three consecutive nights one summer, my sister could see a man in a cowboy hat standing
outside her bedroom window. It turns out it was nothing more than shadows and moonlight cast upon the
woodpile. Simply knowing the truth behind the illusion was not enough to dispel the creepiness it
invoked, so a quick rearrangement of the logs banished the cowboy illusion for good. But this doesn’t imply that all apparitions are illusions.
Frederick Myers of the Society for Psychical Research in London described ghosts as
“Manifestations of persistent energy, or an indication that some kind of force is being exercised after
death which is in some way connected with a person previously known on earth.”
A manifestation of persistent energy might explain the flashes of shadow I glimpse upon my
living room floor. But how does it apply to sound? A sound heard by at least half a dozen people,
separate from one another, spanning decades, who all heard the same sound at different times
unbeknownst to one another and who all described the exact same sound? That of a metal bucket hitting a wooden floor.
If ghosts are residual energy that span time, does that same energy apply to scents, or sound
waves? How does one explain the momentary whiff of Grandpa’s pipe tobacco years after Grandpa’s
been gone? Footsteps in the dark on a path where no one could possibly walk? The steady swish of a
broom sweeping across the floor? (This one I heard in the wee hours of the morning in the parking lot
where I work—an empty parking lot, I might add. There was no one there but me. I incorporated this
experience into my short story, Through a Broken Window, in the book by the same name.)
Perhaps these sights, scents, and sounds are simply moments of temporal
displacement—something which crosses through a wrinkle in time and dimension. Perhaps they are
residual traces of biofields, like the type of energy which is revealed in Kirlian photography. Biofields, or
auras which can only be detected by the sensitive perception of certain people, for generally, those who
believe in ghosts most strongly are those who have had paranormal encounters.
My current home sits upon the dry bed of a dead lake. Perhaps what I view from the corner of
my eye in the living room is nothing more than the lingering auras of the fish that used to swim there, or
those that still swim within the shallow waters in another dimension where the lake continues to exist.
Are these manifestations of energy dangerous? Or is it just wariness which causes my dog to
growl in the dark? I do admit, the growling does put me on edge, especially since there appears to be no
earthly reason for it. But I learned long ago that most often, as Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “The
only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The majority of these manifestations of persistent energy, while
disconcerting, appear to be harmless. But they can be twisted into some chillingly good stories by an
inventive mind. So the next time you read a real hair-raising ghost story, ask yourself this—“How much
of this truly happened? And when might it happen to me?”